Pedicure Day

For Zelda, my farrier uses hot shoeing which allows the

Zelda’s shoes being “hot set”. Don’t worry, it doesn’t hurt the horse (at least if it’s done right). It helps improve the fit of the shoe.

Today was the day that my horses got shod for the spring hunt season. That means shoes all around for Freedom and front shoes for Zelda. I’d pulled their shoes after the first snow and going barefoot for the winter was good for them. Both horses are coming into the spring with great looking feet.

In particular, Zelda was able to grow out the divot in her front right hoof — something that had plagued her since she’d arrived in June of last year.

For Zelda, my farrier heats the shoes in her forge and then shapes them to her foot. Working with hot metal allows the farrier to make subtle adjustments to the shoe, which (if done correctly) achieve a better fit. It is considered to be “hot shoeing” even if you don’t set the shoe hot.

Setting the shoe while it’s hot (not red hot) cauterizes and seals the hoof but it also can help set the shoe more precisely, enabling a tighter, more stable fit. This is especially true when you’re using clips.


The shoe is heated up in the forge so it can be shaped.

Is hot shoeing “better” than cold shoeing? I hope my friend Fran Jurga will pipe up here, as she knows a lot more than I do about this subject! My feeling is that if the farrier is skilled, they can achieve a good fit with either method, but that some farriers go with a cold shoeing method because it’s more economical (and faster) to tap on a shoe that’s a good fit and then rasp the hoof to shape it.

We had never hot set the shoes to Zelda before and that first time is always a bit of a gamble. Some horses don’t like it. But Zelda? She couldn’t have cared less.

Hot shoeing is not as common as it once was. Now farriers can purchase a wide variety of shapes and sizes, so custom fabricating or modifications are often not as necessary. When shoeing large, heavy horses, it is more frequently employed because the shoes they wear are larger and heavier.

How do your farriers shoe?


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Don’t forget!

Secure and clip the doorTaking care of horses is a combination of routine procedures and myriad important details. Routines are both good and they are bad. They help you work efficiently, but the familiarity makes the days all blend together and it is hard to remember whether you latched the door today or yesterday.

How many times have left the barn and then wondered, did I lock the tack room door? Or did I turn the water off? Dozens, if not hundreds of times over the past decade. Inevitably I go back to check. 99% of the time, the task was done correctly. But that 1% when it isn’t, can be a real problem.

I don’t know about your horses, but ours live for the day when the feed room door isn’t secured or you turn your back for a millisecond while the gate is unlatched. Making sure you

The older I get, the worse my memory becomes. There are several things that I rely on to keep me from forgetting something important.

Here are my tips:

  • Tie everything possible to a secure surface — for example, we tie the clips we use to secure latches to the doors and tie the scissors to the back of the hay closet.
  • Leave reminders — the “secure and clip door” label is on our  feed/tack room door. We also leave reminders on the white board.
  • Close everything properly every.single.time. I’ve come to realize that if I always do things “properly” I don’t have to try and remember whether I did them right the last time. It’s annoying to relatch the door every time, but less stressful than wondering if I did it right. Likewise, each time I feed, I make sure the tops are on the bins before I leave the tack room.
  • Minimize the chance of human error. Installing an automatic door closer was a great idea. And this summer we’re going to put a timer on the pump switch as that’s something that occasionally gets left on.
  • Make a mental check list. Every time I leave the barn, I run through the steps in my head. When someone not familiar with the process is helping out, I’ll leave a real list. I use a “to do” list on my iPhone and keep action items there that might be above and beyond the basics. Of course, then I need to remember to check it!
  • Don’t be embarrassed to go back. Usually only you and your horse know that it took you three times before you were sure you did everything right and they’re not telling. Actually, they are hoping that you forgot that you already fed them.

What tips do you have for keeping yourself on track and all the details under control?




Time to limber up

This winter, at least in the Northeast, has been tough. Normally at this point in time I’d be well on my way to getting my horses fit, but this year they’ve spent a lot of time sitting in their paddocks.

The video below gives you an overview of eight stretches to help get your horses ready for the spring (which I assume is going to get here soon.)


Releasing the inner horse from the outer Yak

Zelda the Yak

Just looking at the hairy horses has my clipper fingers itching. So after the big melt turned into the big freeze, I decided to remove at least some of the extra wooliness of my horses. Freedom doesn’t grow a thick winter coat, but Zelda? She looks like a yak. Long, think and I’m sure, very warm. I usually start off with a trace clip in the early spring and keep taking more off as the weather warms up. And no, clipping in the spring does not ruin their summer coat, it just eliminates the shedding.

What’s wrong with this picture?

Freedom and Zelda

Freedom and Zelda. You can see that while Freedom is very happy to have a new mare in “his” herd, Zelda isn’t quite so sure.

It’s always nice to see the happy, smiling faces of your horses when you drive up to the barn.

The problem I had yesterday is that Freedom and Zelda are not turned out together. At least they are not supposed to be in the same pasture. And up until now, they never have been.

However, when I arrived, the fencing between the two paddocks was down and the horses had played musical chairs with their turnout. Freedom and Willow were over at the Red Barn with Zelda and Charlie and Curly were at the Gray Barn.

The good news? No blood and all horses were walking on four legs and looked sound. The bad news? Due to the cold weather, the plastic step in posts that used to hold up the electric had snapped in half. The worse news? The ground was like cement. Not the ideal situation for making fencing repairs.

The options

Luckily, when I found the problem it was still only 3:30 in the afternoon so I had enough daylight left to plan out my options.

Freedom was mighty pleased with the arrangement. As far as he’s concerned, the mares are all his, and Zelda is just the latest to join his herd. His vote was to leave the fencing down but maybe remove Charlie to another planet. Although I have never seen him act aggressively toward Charlie, I have also noticed that the times when they’ve been out together, Charlie is banished to the far reaches of the turnout.

Zelda? Well she looked skeptical. She certainly wasn’t aggressive toward Freedom; rather she had the air of a long-standing beauty queen who is just a bit tired of the devotion of her fan club. She retreated to the sanctity of her stall and so I shut her in with some hay.

Willow? Frankly, she looked annoyed. She’s supposed to be Freedom’s main squeeze and she wasn’t taking kindly to being the third wheel. She looked relieved when Zelda retreated to her own space.

Charlie? He didn’t make a fuss when I put him back into his own turnout.

New fence

The restored fencing. I used fiberglass poles instead of plastic and we used a drill to make holes in the frozen ground.

I think he’d gotten the message that Freedom was not letting him near Zelda or Willow, and he was probably just as glad to stay away, since he and Zelda try to boss each other around.

As for Curly? She’s the non-confrontational one. She waited until I’d restored order and put out hay. Then she cautiously made her way back to the Red Barn.

In the end, I brainstormed with Tim, who does maintenance on the property. He brought down a half inch drill and made holes in the frozen ground. I put the fencing back up using fiberglass posts (I poured water into the holes around the poles and they froze into place quite nicely).

When/if it finally thaws we’re going to have to do a major re-fencing project at the barn, but at least for the short term, I’m hoping this will stay in place.

The Ant Farm Effect

ant farm

There are distinct pathways through the field, cutting through the vast expanse of untouched snow.

The horses have adapted to the snow. Like a giant ant farm, they have created their own “tunnels” or pathways to travel between the important parts of the field — to the fence line, where they meet over the fence, to the gates (although it’s practically too icy to leave the fields), and to each of the stalls.

In between are vast expanses of untouched snow, now hard and crusty, too deep and dense to be inviting. Freedom will come to meet me at the gate and instead of turning around will back up all the way to the barn to avoid the deeper snow.

What kind of boarder are you?

7 Types of  boarders

I’ve been at enough barns that I recognize all of these personality types.

This post over at strikes some familiar chords. I’ve seen most of these boarders over the years and then some.

I would classify my self as an amateur in the categories listed in that article.

As someone who has boarded at a co-op barn for the past 10 years, let me add a couple of other personality types.

The Old Timer: This person might not be old in years, but they are firmly entrenched in the “we’ve always done it this way” school of horsemanship. These folks don’t want to hear that there’s a newer, better or even different way of doing something, because they know the best way to do it. In a co-op barn, this often translates to, “my way or the highway”.

The Learn as You Go : This person is the one who chooses the co-op option because it’s less expensive than full care, not because they have ever taken care of a horse. In a co-op barn, this person can be a quick study, but often time, they have a romanticized view of owning a horse that has little to do with the realities of self care. Unfortunately, these are the people who are also taking care of your horse.

The Shirker:  This is the person who rarely volunteers to do the extra job, but just does the minimum. They often underestimate the amount of time and effort required to take care of horses.

The Extra Hand: This is the opposite of the shirker, the person who has a secret desire to be a barn manager and is happy to spend the extra hours mucking stalls, picking pastures and stacking hay. These are the people who are always available to hold your horse for the farrier or help you load a new horse onto a trailer.

The Fixer: This is the person who always has a hammer in one hand and who has a solid knowledge of electric fencing, can diagnose illnesses and do basic first aid. If you’re really lucky, a barn will have a few of these, with a range of special skills. Or they may have . . .

The Horse Husband: These are the men who provide the muscle for digging post holes, the carpentry skills to re-hang stall doors or install latches, and the electrical skills to wire the fencing, and the patience to spend many hours in the mud watching their wives or SOs enjoy their horses.

Yaktrax Rules!

Yaktrax Pro

Yaktrax Pro keeps you on the feet when you don’t have skates with you.

Sub zero temperatures interspersed with rain left our pastures looking more like skating rinks than places where horses live. Just walking to the barn meant risking a total wipe out and I came really, really close a couple of times.

The solution? Yakstrax Pro. These things are amazing. Strap them onto your boots and all of a sudden walking, not sliding is once again possible.

Now, if they only made them for horses! Actually, ours are doing pretty well — they are barefoot and taking it slow. They are smart and not in a hurry.